Oakdale Police Department’s loss will be another’s gain as Patrol Sgt. Michael Eggener, a 23-year law enforcement veteran, turns in his badge as of Aug. 31 and prepares for a career change in the private sector.
Eggener had always considered law enforcement as a career but first he went straight from his Midwestern high school into the US Marine Corps where he served for three years. Finished with his service, he deferred to his young wife’s concerns that law enforcement was too dangerous and instead spent the next 10 years as a machinist.
But the dream of being a police officer remained a seed in his heart, just waiting to bloom with the right circumstances.
His opportunity came when he realized he could no longer be a machinist.
“I didn’t want to be a machinist for the rest of my life. I did not want to die in a factory,” he said.
Immediately following that epiphany, he went to his wife and told her he didn’t want to live with regret and since his desire to become a police officer had never faded in spite of the years, he knew it was his next step. His wife, Marilyn, understood and agreed he ought to give it a try.
“She supported me and let me do a career change because we’re a team and support each other,” Eggener said of his wife of 33 years.
And the rest, as they say, is history.
Eggener’s first law enforcement job was with the Alameda Sheriff’s Department where he remained for two years before finding the place he would remain for 21 years until retirement: the Oakdale Police Department.
“I knew right away it was the right decision to move to Oakdale,” Eggener said of his decision to leave the larger department. “Alameda is such a big department everyone has their own areas of responsibility but in Oakdale the officers do everything. You can take an investigation as far as you want to go. You can actually help create change in a smaller department.”
Since helping people was Eggener’s ultimate goal, the ability to see the changes he could make in a community was a considerable draw for the young police officer.
Eggener spent 15 years commuting to Oakdale from Manteca while his daughters were in school but eventually the changes that came to his neighborhood and the commute, combined with his grueling schedule took its toll and he and his wife said goodbye to Manteca and made Oakdale their home.
“When the neighborhood started to deteriorate, I knew it was time to go,” he shared.
But even when Eggener wasn’t an actual resident, he never gave less on the job for the community.
“I’ve always treated Oakdale like it was my town,” Eggener said.
Over his long career with OPD, Eggener has worn many hats and bore many responsibilities, which ranged from K9 officer to Field Training Officer to SWAT team member to narcotics officer.
Eggener spent eight years with his loyal Belgium shepherd, Granger (purchased with the help of the Oakdale Grange) who was cross trained as a narcotics and apprehension police dog until Eggener was forced to put his companion down after Granger was struck with cancer.
“He was a very good dog,” Eggener said. “It was great always having a partner even though he would steal my food at times.”
A smile and a laugh aren’t far behind when Eggener talks of Granger.
“The whole family got very attached,” he admitted.
While he never got another K9, Eggener’s experience enabled him to write policy for the department when time came to add more K9 officers to the department.
Eggener was one of the original members of SWAT and ONET (Oakdale Narcotics Enforcement Team), both of which are now defunct due to the current economic downturn.
Both details were invaluable to the department, he said.
“SWAT brought us all together as a team and ONET allowed us to go after street level dealers and users that weren’t being addressed by the county because they were too busy going after the big guys,” Eggener said.
Eggener admits he’s going to miss being able to help with problems within the community on a law enforcement level but he’s looking forward to this new chapter in his life, which will start nearly immediately.
“I like being able to help people. It feels good to know I was a role model for some. I always tried to be fair to everyone I worked with,” Eggener said.